Dear Dr. Cara: When’s the best time to talk to my child about puberty?

Dear Dr. Cara: When’s the best time to talk to my child about puberty?

Our expert: Dr. Cara Natterson

Our resident expert on all things girls. She’s a board certified pediatrician, author of the best-selling book series The Care and Keeping of You, and travels the country speaking about health and wellness issues to both kids and parents.

When is the best time to talk to your child about puberty?

There really is no time when it is too soon to begin talking about the body. Of course, you will want to steer the conversation towards appropriate topics, so if you have a young child you can focus on hygiene (hand washing, why use soap in the shower, etc.) whereas if your daughter is older you will want to cover more nuts-and-bolts like facts about hormones and body changes.

The bottom line is that talking about puberty is an awkward conversation. It’s embarrassing for most girls, and so many moms dread bringing it up. Try to look at it differently. If you could turn back the clock and change the way you learned about your body, would you? Try to do for your daughter what you wish was done for you (or, if you are one of the rare few who had an amazing experience sharing with your mom, then do what your mom did).

When you finally do start talking about it, you may be surprised at your daughter’s relief. Many girls actually want to have these conversations, so once the floodgates have been opened they come back for more and more.

While there is no “best” time to have the talk, remember two things. First, it is not a one-time conversation. It is a talk that can and should happen many times over many years. So don’t be afraid that you will mess it up because you have lots of options for do-overs. And second, follow your daughter’s lead. She will let you know when the conversation has gone far enough. Don’t push her to cover topics she’s not ready for (remember point #1 – this isn’t a one-time thing – so you will have plenty of opportunities to cover more in the future). By letting your daughter guide the conversation, she will help you to understand what she needs to know.

Have a question for one of our experts? Email

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.